Saturday morn in Pasadena. My apartment is clean and ready for the Boys from Rockhampton. They arrive tomorrow morn. I rose early-ish to get a few things done in the Apt, go wash my bike – it is filthy from the ride north- and get some supplies.
And it is raining.
Isn’t there a song about it never raining in Southern California? Glen Campbell, I think…
So I’m watching the weather. I’ll go out once the rain abates. And in the mean time I shall discourse, eloquently, on the art of riding naked…
2015 HAS STARTED WITH A BANG…. My ride to Missoula/ Polson, Montana was great. Amazing. Spectacular. I no longer take picts while running. This pict can perhaps beckon one to go have a look for themselves…
Perhaps I should take more pictures… I tried the GoPro but found it a bit of a nuisance. You gotta really be into editing footage if you intend to make a GoPro meaningful. I use to always take picts. Or I tried to. Less so any more.
I have learned to snap a shot as I stop to refuel while on the road. Mainly a snap helps me remember where I stopped. It sounds strange, even forgetful, to be unable to recall where you stopped for 15 minutes while driving 600 miles and stopping no less than 7 times, in a day.
So Saturday the 11th I hit the road at 7am. Stopping every 100 miles or so I traveled down 210 to 15. My first stop was for fuel only, somewhere north of Victorville. Interesting point about that stop was a guy who had been on the highway and noticed me, came up and had a long chat about the bike. He was a savvy bike guy and asked about the engine and how she rode. I love the fact that the bike gets so many comments.
I think I get comments because I don’t look like anything most folks have seen. (in more ways than one) And when I tell them where I am riding, they think I am mad. I have discussed it numerous times, but I ride light, low and fast.
I posted before about the gear I wear… The bright yellow jacket, my riding pants, boots, gauntlets, and helmet. I am waterproof and well protected.
A minimalist approach to the highway… In my bag I have 3 changes of compression gear, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a pair of swimming trunks, 2 pairs spare socks, my toilet kit, and that’s about it. I do not pack a lot of clothes because i wont need them. I ride, I eat, I drink, I sleep, play it again… and again, and again…
So north of Victorville, Barstow, again south of Vegas, again further north of Vegas. St George, Beaver then stop for the night at Nephi. All on Hwy 15.
I prefer to not fill my belly up when I ride. All the vibration and required exertion can be harsh by an upset stomach. I have ridden feeling unwell and it sucks. A nervous stomach is very bad, trying to get my leather pants off, in a hurry… a drastic hurry, is never easy. I eat simple food, normally a fried egg breakfast at a road side stop or an IHOP or similar. I do not drink much coffee. Water is best. I tend to stop between 10 and 12 depending on how good the ride is going. I use to try different foods but when traveling that may not be wise. As well, its hard to screw fried eggs up.
I like to munch almonds. They keep my stomach happy. But I eat little. Have a V8 or a bottle of water, each stop, to stay hydrated. Try to look for a good salad and a beer at the end of the day. The beer is east to find. The salad not always so easy.
Did I mention that having “gas” while riding is bad. Gas can distract me inordinately, and farts can be dangerous at 100mph… so very simple food is best.
Highway 15 can appear rather dismal. And it is in the lands between LA and Vegas. And even north of Vegas, it is dreary at best. Loads of traffic, way too hot this time of year, but it is a very good corridor out of the populated areas of the Vegas/ LA region.
I have found that the speed limit is not technically enforced. If the speed limit is 70mph, traffic can often be traveling at 80 or 85mph. I travel the speed of traffic, plus a bit. I hate getting “bottled up” in traffic. And we know that death on 2 wheels oft-times comes from behind. So I ride with the intent of having space around me. I am prone to using my speed to get out of traffic quickly… but that’s a philosophical point I shall address later…
After the I70 junction, 15 becomes very quiet. The north leg beyond I70 has so little traffic I was often riding all by myself. And riding at 100mph for long stretches of road. I love those long sloping, well cambered curves that say stupid shit like “65”… you turn into the curve and hold it for what appears like ages. For most of the stretch from I70 to Nephi I got to be a high-speed racer… the highway to myself, I could use both lanes like you do on a race course. Shift in tight for the approach, hang hard into the left-hand turn at 90mph, come out n slingshot out of the inside lane and into the outer, gaining speed then power into a right-hander… some of the highway had multiple curves, downhill or up… so I got to race from one curve to the other unimpeded. It was great.
From Nephi to Salt lake City (SLC) to well beyond Ogden is all urban riding. Pick a lane, I prefer car-pool lanes, and just ride through. Don’t try to be quick, ride the speed of the traffic and, in the car-pool lane. Pull out if someone gets anxious, and wants past, let them past. Then come back and set your speed. Trying to move fast or being in a hurry in traffic is no good.
But once past SLC and into the open road you get the same as before. But longer. Pretty much all the way to I90 it’s open and free, Lots of altitude changes and long gforce curves,
Most of I90 is easy to ride, good traffic and good drivers.
Of course, Montana is simply heaven on earth for 2 wheels. The air is clear, clean n crisp. I had to pull over and zip my air vents on my jacket up. It may just be me, but Montana is sooo great, sooo good, n soo magical.
I think much of the allure is the fact that Montana is froze shut for 8 or more months each year. It’s window of opportunity is minimal, weather is sketchy n prone to violent change. It can be hot, rainy, dern cold, windy as a cyclone, humid as the tropics… all in the course of an afternoon.
Morning in the mountains are generally cold. I learned this last year when riding through Flagstaff on my way to Albuquerque. Up at 4, on the road by 5, and dying in the saddle. I had to stop within my first half hour to warm up. And until about 8am my time on the road was painful. So, if in the mountains, plan to sleep in. Get a later start and enjoy the ride more. Sure, in the desert or the plains, wake real early and get a couple of hours of road-time in before the temps bust 100degrees. But in the mountains, sleep in.
Some thoughts n tips about riding…
Wind is your enemy… if you know you are going to be facing stiff or gusting winds, prepare mentally and physically. Winds take the fun outta riding quick-time. The constant batter of the winds take a lot of energy to manage and control. One point riding back south from Montana, a big gust nailed me and I felt a muscle in my neck pop. It hurt, still does, but it could have been a stopper if it was worse.
I hear the peanut-gallery… get a ferring, hide behind a windshield like all the other lard-assed ol-fart pussies out there… sure, good idea… if you’re a lard-assed pussy.
I like riding naked. For me that’s what is all about. When I retired I bought a full dress BMW R1200RT. A really nice bike… But I never rode it much. I found it too heavy, not “fast” enough, made me look like an ol fart on a “Granny-Glide”… It simply did not suit my style. And I did not know what suited my style until I found the Thruxton in 2013. That’s when I knew what and how I prefered to ride.
And everyone is entitled to their preferences. So… I am mad, a bit touched, maybe deranged… and I like to ride long, low n fast.And Naked!
I like to know my head is in the slip stream, if you move to fast or look sideways without thought, the wind will twist your neck. Sound fun? I am part of the whole process of the ride. My body is part of the machine. I use my head to steer. A move to the right of the head and the bike’s balance responds. It is very close to flying.
Maybe it is flying? I’ll write more about this…
When I am in cities I see a lot of “Urban Warriors”… they ride very fast through very thick traffic. They ride the centre lines and use the shoulder a lot. I had the shit scared outta me by a Ducati passing me on the left as I was in a car-pool lane through Vegas… the guy passed me with a change of gears and a roar of that distinctive Ducati V engine. He was riding very, very fast (I was going 7o mph) and he continued through traffic, left to right, right to left… he must a been in a hurry.
Urban Warriors are a breed apart from myself. They ride daily through traffic and have a different skill-set to what I have. There is something to be said with doing thousands of miles a year in urban conditions. You learn to ride between vehicles that are traveling fast and close. You learn to cut in and out of traffic. Of course the reason one rides a bike in city conditions is for efficiency… it is normally cheaper than a car, faster than a car, easier to park and much easier to maintain. And no fun to sit on when traffic stalls. So you drive round and through it all.
But as a Long Rider I can ride through cities but do it with a sense of dread. I see so many close calls in traffic. I see so many opportunities for death. One of my main skills is being able to see all around me. I am constantly in my mirrors, twisting my head to look side to side, making eye contact with people. If I can see them they normally pose no threat to me.
Death from behind… It’s like the deep-blue… it’s the shark you don’t see, the one that comes from behind, that will get you.
I see it all the time: Bad drivers who can only look at the licence plate in front of them, who tail-gate to the point where no room for error exists. I wrote about a mishap on I10 heading to Phoenix, last year, where I got whacked at 70mph by an old dude in a white mercedes. He was coming up from behind me, should have seen me, but the first I saw him was a white phlash in my mirror, the next thing I know my left hand mirror has been whacked outta view and I was riding my bar-end down the side of his car. It was as close as you can get. I heard the ol fart’s wife scream. And he just steered hard into my lane. I rode down the side of his car, let him to get in front of me. had a quick look all round, and gunned it and got the hell outta Dodge.
I have had numerous front-end close calls. Where I am moving and all of a sudden the vehicle in front of me has locked his brakes up. I have nailed the front brake hard on several occasions and know how to manage a skid (no ABS on my Thruxton). I prefer to power out and turn past, if possible. I did this just the other day, in traffic, lights go on in front, I am in the far left lane so I have room to simply steer past. Quick and easy..
My main gig is long distance. I like the endurance, the change of scenery, the isolation. I aim for as many miles under my wheels as possible. I set very hard goals. I like rides that are on the edge of my physical and time alloted ability. I want to ride all day, for several days, without much interruption. I want to see the scenery change and go from sea level to 7000ft, from desert to snow, from civilization and big roads to wide open nothingness.
The Urban Warriors can’t do what I do. Their skill set is not developed like mine. Their bikes are wrong. I, admit, I can’t do what they do. It scares the shit outta me!
I have learned a few tricks about riding naked, long, and fast…
Compression gear… A few years back i found compression gear. I found that as an old fart, a lot of my body juggles n shakes as I move. All this jiggling and shaking, on a long, long bike ride, causes fatigue. So I seal it all up in a tight package. getting into and out of my compression gear is not a pretty sight. At the end of the day it can be a struggle. But since I started wearing the gear I do notice a huge difference. I no longer wake up tired. Sure, I get sore and tired when riding but no longer do I carry from day to day the same fatigue.
Advice on compression gear is to buy gear that does not hurt or pinch. I have tried different types and have settled on one that fits me without leaving marks. It holds well, compresses tightly and is a bitch to get on n off.
Helmets… Maybe I am still searching for the right helmet. I was recently wearing a Shoei open face with attached visor. I can see well in it and it is lighter than my full-face models. But it shifts in the wind. The airstream gets into the helmet and pulls it back. I am constantly distracted by it needing adjustment while riding. I think this is a great urban helmet in that is offers huge viz. But as a highway helmet it is not a wiener. I’ll try my old BMW full-face lift up. It has always been my favourite so we’ll see if I remember correctly.
I notice a huge difference since buying this a year ago. I have less close calls, and I can see people seeing me. I have traditionally noted that semi-drivers don’t see bikes. When I pass a semi I try to get away and into the driver’s mirror-view. I have in the past noted that drivers decide to pull into my lane without looking. So many times I have almost been run off the road, but my speed keeps me from trouble… simply speed up and get the hell outta Dodge.
This past trip I did not have a single semi try to kill me.
So, Ride 1 of 2015 done.
Do look forward to the next couple weeks.